There are not many pupils that will say they love writing and there are probably fewer teachers that love marking it! I’ve just done an assessed piece of writing with the children and I see the same problems in all of their work. You can get them to plan all you like but when the writing starts, getting them to stick to the plan all the way through to the conclusion is a nightmare.
You can tell the point at which they feel they’ve done enough – I’d be a rich man if I had a pound for every time I’ve read the end of a story where the characters have a cup of cocoa and go to bed or wake up part way through the story to find it’s all been a dream!
So what’s the answer to making writing fun and sustaining their concentration?
I’ve experimented with several ideas over the years and some of the best I’ve found involve either shared writing or writing that is done in a format that the children enjoy.
You can tell the regard in which story writing is held by your class when their initial question is ‘When I finish, can I draw a picture?’ This often means that the work is rushed to get to the enjoyable bit, so why not ask them to draw the picture first then write about it?
Another writing method we use is the shared story.
We began by using an exercise book. The teacher would write the opening lines of a story and the child would continue it, returning the book to the teacher after a paragraph had been completed. This worked well until books got lost and all the work with it. We looked around for an alternative and hit upon the use of blogs.
If you want to follow this route, set up WordPress or other blog provider’s accounts for each child that is participating and give them the log in details.
Begin the story for the child and ask them to continue it. Alternate regularly completing sections of the story. You should each choose a different colour font to be able to differentiate between the authors and to enable you to monitor how much each author is contributing.
If you set up the spam filter to remove all spam you won’t have any unwanted comments appearing on the blog. This way you can use the comment facility to be able to tell the child how you think the story is progressing. From time to time, discuss the story verbally with the child so that they can discuss ideas.
Other free blogware is available and some allow you to keep the blog private although in all the time we have operated the system we have never had a comment come through the spam filter on WordPress that wasn’t from an accepted source.
By using blogware, we are sure that the story won’t be lost and the story can be continued in school or at home. Parents like this method too as they can log on and see the child’s work and the comments from the teacher.
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept